Home Theater PC lowest cost

I'm retired, small budget. Sorry for this winded post but trying to get in all my facts.

I've built systems in the past, but as my computing requirements went down and HP/Dell prebuilts became cheap I found it better to buy less than optimal systems. So my constructing stopped about 4 years ago.

My cable company has implemented their own digital broadcast which now made it necessary to have one of their DVR's or a cable card device to record most of the channels I am interested in, so I have near boat anchor DVR's now.

I would like to build a Ceton based system so that I can record 4 stations at once. That will cover what my DVR's can't pick up anymore.

Noise is not an issue as I watch TV surrounded by at least 3 PC's running other junk I'm doing (twitter/chat/online scoring of races).

Size is also not a matter, I in fact have a large form Anatec case from an old xp build that I can use - that said I would spend a small amount if it made sense to get another case. I suspect I'll want a new power supply regardless - probably due to system requirements.

The PC will not run anything else, just TV recording. I don't want BSOD to interupt so I will have very limited apps. Either Windows Media or if I can bring myself to do it give Linux theater build a whirl.

In my searches, all I have found are systems 2 years or more old, and so much has changed.

I am a happy AMD user so no need to stick with Intel unless it provides something. Already have an extra 1TB drive but will probably buy a new one to carry the op sys, apps and overflow recording.

I'd love as much specifics as possible e.g. go 4 core or no need for that, get at least 6 gig memory or 4 will do etc.

Also I'm a light on knowledge as to what the video output card should be to feed my HDTV - and maybe some other TV's in the house in the future? I would not be using this PC's screen to watch on.

Sources to purchase from appreciated as well. Tiger seems to always have stuff that maybe isn't the best but some great prices. New Egg seems to always be in play. Again, having been out of it for a while not sure here.

Again, sorry for going on about this, appreciate any help or pointers to threads I may have missed in my searches.
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  1. Hmm, most cable companies scramble their signal nowdays, you must be lucky.

    For playing HD content, not much is required, a cheap I3 with embeded graphics will play HD fine, also if you going to a HDTV make sure your source and cables are HD compatible.

    Most any modern card with HDMI output would be fine and of course your cable box must be HD and you need to be using HDMI cables, they carry both HD video and audio.
  2. Thanks for the response tcman50.

    I wasn't clear, the tuner car I'm getting takes a cable card to handle the descrambling, the cable company is required to provide 1 free cable card, and of course it's only programmed to handle what I pay for, so nothing magic there.

    I'm trying to get clear of using their box or their DVR which require monthly rental. The tuner car I'm getting has four tuners so I can record 4 different stations at once on the pc, but they I have to figure out how to distribute that versus my current method of having discrete DVR's whose tuners no longer work with the new scrambled digital signals.

    I guess I'll bolt some stuff together and start experimenting without buying things I can't use in some way in the future.
  3. For an HTPC build, you wouldn't need much more than what I have in my system (see my signature below); a dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM, a dedicated DVR hard drive, and a case to hold it all.

    The problem is how to get it all distributed to all your TVs. There is an answer in the Ceton Echo, but there's no telling when that's going to be released. If you can find some used (working) XBox 360's, you can use them as extenders, but I'd probably wait until Ceton's Echo is released.

    Just a point of interest, with the Ceton InfiniTV4, you can assign individual tuners to other PCs attached to a wired network. If there is a PC near each of the TVs you eventually want connected, that would probably work to your advantage. If you do go this route, you're going to want a bit beefier system than what I'm running. General rule of thumb is one CPU core for each tuner assigned.

    -Wolf sends
  4. Thanks Wolfshadw, that pretty much answers my questions. I hadn't heard of the Ceton Echo, will look at that. Although I have PC's located near other TV's, all are running Vista or XP so I'm guessing I can't assign them to record under Windows Media Center. I guess I'll take your specs and start pricing things out to see where I land. Thanks again.
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